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155361 - People v Benjamin Michael Bentz

The People of the State of Michigan,
Christopher M. Allen
Paul R. Spaniola
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Mason – Sniegowski, S.)
Benjamin Michael Bentz,
Douglas W. Baker


Defendant’s daughter alleged that defendant sexually abused her when she was 8 and 9 years old. At trial, the prosecutor called Dr. Debra Simms to offer expert testimony about her examination of the complainant. Dr. Simms testified that there were no physical signs of abuse, but she gave a diagnosis of probable pediatric sexual abuse based on the complainant’s “clear, consistent, detailed and descriptive” history. Defense counsel did not object, but did cross-examine Dr. Simms regarding her opinions. The jury convicted defendant of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. On appeal, defendant argued that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to Dr. Simms’ testimony, failing to object on hearsay grounds, and failing to impeach the complainant. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions in an unpublished per curiam opinion, with one judge concurring separately. With regard to Dr. Simms’ testimony, the majority concluded that defense counsel’s performance was not deficient, and the concurring judge concluded that counsel did err in failing to object, but that the error did not sufficiently prejudice defendant. The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address whether trial counsel’s failure to object to Dr. Simms’ testimony fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and, if so, whether there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of defendant’s trial would have been different if an objection had been made.